Mastering Next.js and Beyond: An interview with Lee Robinson

Mastering Next.js and Beyond: An interview with Lee Robinson

Lee Robinson Talks Next.js, Community, and More

Stuart Clark
Amazon Employee
Published May 16, 2024
In the ever-evolving landscape of software development, staying ahead of the curve is a constant challenge. To gain insights into navigating this rapidly changing field, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lee Robinson. Lee is a frontend developer, optimist, and community builder. He is the VP of Product at Vercel, where he helps teach the Next.js community, an open-source web framework built with React.
Stuart: In software development, things move fast. How do you stay ahead of the curve, and what are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities you see in this ever-evolving landscape?
Lee: I learn best through building. And while it's not always possible to build large projects with every new tool, getting practical experience helps me understand the tradeoffs and strengths of new tech. I would recommend all developers start exploring how to integrate AI into their everyday workflow, as many of the UX flows we know today will be reimagined with AI in the future.
Stuart: With AI, machine learning, and blockchain making huge waves across the industry, how do you see these technologies impacting the future of software engineering?
Lee: A TypeScript engineer is the AI engineer of the future. This means taking LLMs and applying them to build great products, versus traditional Machine Learning folks, who are building the underlying models. We’re already seeing a shift of smaller, more product and design focused teams for new startups. I’ve written about this shift when saying that Product Engineers are more desired than Fullstack Engineers. 
Stuart: Next.js has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. What do you think are the key factors driving this adoption, and why should developers consider using Next.js?
Lee: The success of Next.js isn’t possible without the React team and community, so shoutout to them. Even after 10 years of growth, React continues to reinvent itself and continue rethinking best practices.
More companies than ever are transitioning from monolithic applications to headless, composable architectures. Next.js is the product experience enabling them to deliver a fast, performant web experience.
We try to help developers (and companies) achieve their business goals (whether that be improved Core Web Vitals for better search ranking, higher conversions on checkout pages, and more) through providing powerful, easy-to-use tools.
Stuart: When it comes to performance optimization, Next.js is known for speed and performance. What are some of your best practices for optimizing Next.js applications for maximum performance?
Lee: Next.js gives developers many tools to optimize their sites.
For example, built-in components and modules that address common performance issues, such as image sizing and compression, font loading, and third-party script management. 
We’ve recently extended these capabilities by working with teams like the Aurora team at Google Chrome to provide wrappers for common scripts like Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics.
Stuart: How do you see the way we work as software engineers changing in the next five to ten years?
Lee: AI tools have already significantly impacted my workflow. I frequently use LLMs not only as a pair programmer, or for answering questions, but also for building prototypes and first versions of applications faster.
For example, we've been working on a product called v0 that helps scaffold the initial version of a React and Tailwind CSS application. It provides a solid starting point – a literal first version. Tools like this are helping devs more quickly validate ideas and prototype solutions.
The rate of change in the AI space is so rapid that anything I say here will be hilariously outdated in 5 years, so we will see where things get to!
Stuart: For aspiring engineers, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in software engineering today?
Lee: Write online. Your ideas will attract interesting people and can help take you further than you ever expected. Talented people want to work with others who have done amazing things. So build, write about it, and share it.
Second, invest in your foundations. Your skills compound over time. Early in my career, I spent a lot of time building foundational knowledge without seeing immediate growth. Eventually, I found the sweet spot. The intersection of what I was good at and what the market needed – and growth was exponential from there.
Follow your curiosity, build things that interest you, and keep on going.
Stuart: I want to thank Lee for taking the time to share his insights and experiences with us. His perspectives highlight the importance of continuous learning, embracing new technologies, and fostering a passion for your craft in navigating the ever-changing software development landscape.

Any opinions in this post are those of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of AWS.